C.H. Flowers entered the weekend facing the reality of not making the Prince George’s County 4A playoffs for just the second time in Coach Mike Mayo’s 12-year tenure. The Jaguars’ record already included two blemishes – losses to Northwestern and Suitland – and they knew they could not afford a third on Saturday with undefeated Wise looming in the distance on their regular season schedule.
Eleanor Roosevelt was in a similar position. Like Flowers, the Raiders have stood as one of the perennial powers in the 4A South Region in recent history. And like Flowers, the Raiders faced a must-win situation Saturday with DuVal and Suitland lingering on the horizon.
Following Flowers’ 33-14 victory Saturday over Roosevelt (5-2), Jaguars two-way senior star Keith Payne succinctly articulated the critical edge his team possessed.
“We were ready,” Payne said, “and they weren’t.”
Like many talented, athletic high school football players, Payne plays significant minutes on both sides of the ball. But Mayo said Payne’s skill-set will translate better on offense at the collegiate level.
Payne, a wide receiver, hunts for the ball when it’s in the air, Mayo said. That ability was on display on touchdown receptions of 50 and 47 yards against the Raiders.
“They were playing close up on me with no safety over the top,” Payne said. “My coach just told me I had to beat [the opposing cornerback] to the ball, so I did.”
But the impact Payne made as a defensive back was equally vital. He recorded three interceptions – two of which came in the first half – and led a Jaguars defense that provided Mayo some semblance of comfort when the offense initially sputtered.
“We knew we had our backs against the wall this week and we had to convert on big plays,” said Flowers senior quarterback Roman Williams, who completed 5 of 11 passes for 132 yards. “We had to stay focused on that, rather than sticking to a concrete game plan.”
Mayo said he told his players at practice this past week, “If you give me four, we’ll get more,” implying that the only way the Jaguars (5-2) can ensure themselves a playoff berth is by winning the remainder of their regular season games. That remains a tall task, but his team at least got the first objective out of the way Saturday.
“We don’t want to have a letdown or get complacent,” Mayo said. “We just have to stay focused and get the next one.”